I realized this week that I’ve misunderstood what resilience meant my entire life.

I thought that being resilient meant being tough, not being deterred and being able to recover and get back on track.

I was wrong.

I previously wrote a post for Vox about growing up poor in East Oakland and applying to an elite private school thanks to the insistence of my amazing 5th grade teacher Mrs. Harris

I got in, but thanks to a missed financial aid form deadline, I didn’t go there for 6th grade. I still remember how crushed I felt as a 10/11-year old. I couldn’t comprehend how tuition there could cost more than what my parents made in a year.

But teachers and relatives assured me it’d be okay— they’d help me get back on track. I spent 6th grade at our local Oakland middle school, which closed down a few years later due to poor performance.

I made one good friend that year, but mostly remember students making teachers cry and learning that the Pokemon game clock stopped at 255 hours. I even lost interest in making websites in HTML and Dreamweaver, which I had learned the year before.

I knew money was always tight, but my parents paid for a math tutor (an old Vietnamese man with cheap rates) so that I wouldn’t fall too far behind during this lost year.

That story had a happy ending. I got into the private school again, we turned in our financial aid forms on time, and I was fortunate enough to attend on full scholarship.

But I never shook that feeling that I got a late start and had to work extra hard to “get back on track”.

That and being a financial aid kid plus all the usual teenage angst meant years of not feeling adequate or enough.

Now, 20+ years later, startups and running have taught me that “getting back on track” isn’t what we should strive for at all.

Trying to get back to an imagined perfectly charted course is precisely what holds us back.

This past Sunday, I was hoping to run a marathon personal best after two big years of base and the best feeling training block I had ever put together. Instead I didn’t even finish the race. That’s a story for another time, but I was pretty bummed.

But that’s when I realized: Resilience really means taking time to mourn the loss of what could have been, accepting it, and fully embracing the new, uncharted path, fully confident in your values, processes, and abilities and your community.

When we have a plan for our work, our training, our diets, or pretty much anything in our lives, inevitably something will knock us off course. Rather than just perpetually trying to “get back on track”, maybe we can all embrace the unknown together.

Let’s be resilient!

We try to encourage practicing resilience in Flow Club. We declare our intentions at the beginning of every session. Flow Club sessions help block off & protect our time, but urgent issues and life invariably happen. We adjust and reset.

Sometimes we get back to where we were originally hoping to go, but it’s the new journey that we should embrace.

Originally published as a thread on Twitter